Frustration, anger, disappointment, embarrassment; these are all feelings that stir up in any good sports fan as he watches his team lose a big game. These were my feelings as I yelled at the TV, threw my hate in the floor and finally resigned myself to accepting defeat on January 7th. My Ohio State Buckeyes, yet again, lost in the BCS Championship Game, this time to LSU. It felt like a replay of last year’s even more embarrassing devastation delivered to us by Florida. But the defeat did get me to wondering: what is the right way for Christians to respond when their sport’s team loses?
It’s not easy to accept defeat, nor to endure the embarrassment and shame that come along with it. Everyone hates to see their team lose, but the world has a particular view on sports that eats into the very heart of a person. When you say that an individual bleeds blue (like a Kentucky Wildcat fans), or when you become known and labeled as “The Buckeye Guy” you have moved beyond being a simple fan of your team. Men become obsessed with sports, and consequently with their teams. There is a degree of “loyalty” to which some fans go that is far beyond any right enjoyment in sports and any right delight in their teams. Why do fans shoot referees, why do men curse and swear and hold grudges when their teams lose? Why do some fans react in full on heartbroken tears and sobbing over the loss of Ohio State to LSU? I honestly don’t know the answer, but I know that it is not the type of reaction becoming of a Christian.
We are to be consumed by the Lord Jesus Christ. We are to “bleed” Scripture. We are to love and adore Christ. Being a Buckeye fan is fine. Getting frustrated at your teams loss is understandable. Reacting with bitterness, hurt, and rage over that loss, however, is idolatry. There is a point at which team devotion becomes team worship. It is an obsession that can hurt our evangelism, to be sure, but even more than that it can hurt our own spiritual growth. It is an obsession that can turn our hearts more and more to the things of this world and away from the Lord Jesus Christ. Of course sports aren’t alone in this temptation, but when I watch a game like I watched last night and I respond in the way I responded I sense it as more present and more prominent. Perhaps this is why God orchestrated OSU’s loss yesterday: to teach me a lesson about my own heart. If such is true then I am grateful for their defeat. Maybe next year God will be more inclined to teach someone on a different team this lesson!